Finally, Goa gets a crab of its own

By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar, IANS
Monday, October 25, 2010

PANAJI - Goa now has a crab of its own. And for a change, it’s neither poached, grilled, roasted or curried.

Marine researchers in Goa have discovered a new species of crab along the Goa coast. It has been named Charybdis Goaensis, after the coastal state known for its beaches and seafood, especially the various crab delicacies devoured by tourists in beach-side shacks and restaurants, with a pincer in the one hand and a mallet in the other.

The scientists from the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) and Goa University, which made the discovery, say they have selflessly named the crab after the state, rather than naming it after themselves, as is the norm.

“Earlier species used to be named after certain qualities they possessed or after the names of the researchers. Actually, we could have named it after any of us, but since it has been found in Goa, we decided to name it after the region itself,” Chandrashekar Rivonker told IANS.

An associate professor at Goa University, Rivonkar also said it was a matter of chance that they stumbled upon the crab, while collaborating with the NIO on a government project dealing with management of ballast water, which is used to maintain weight equilibrium of a ship when it is not carrying cargo. Ballast water is usually located in tanks at the bottom of the ship and is discharged near ports.

“A ship that is travelling from Vasco da Gama to, say, the US will fill its ballast water tanks with water from Goa’s coast and empty it when it enters a port in the US. This significantly alters the biodiversity there. Along with the water, marine plants and animal life are also transported,” Rivonkar said, adding that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) was trying to put together an International Declaration that makes it mandatory for ships to state where they have collected their ballast water from.

It was while conducting this study that the team of researchers, which included Vinay Padate (Goa University), Chandrashekar Anil, Subhash Sawant and Venkat Krishnamurthy besides Rivonker (all from NIO), stumbled upon the crab.

“If we have to talk of invasive species (foreign species which are transported through ballast into a different region), we first have to have a baseline of existing species. Our study was to document all existing marine animal life,” Rivonker explained.

“From the earlier 95, we have today documented almost 204 species which have Goan waters as their home,” Rivonker said.

“When Charybdis Goaensis was caught in a fishing trawler operation in an estuary, we saw it was different but didn’t realise what was in store for us,” Rivonker said.

As per scientific convention, naming of any living organism is always a combination of its generic name (initial word) and a specific name (subsequent word).

So, while Charybdis is common to around 43 other species categorised under the same genre, Goaensis is unique to this particular species of crab.

The story of the Charybdis Goaensis has also been published in the latest issue of Marine Biology Research, an international scientific journal.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at

–Indo Asian News Service

Filed under: Environment

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